I've never been able to do Sudoku.  Which has always irritated the hell out of me, and been puzzling as well, because I'm good – generally speaking – with numbers.  I just couldn't find a way in: I'd look at a Sudoku puzzle in a newspaper, and I'd try random guesses for a few minutes, make no headway, and quit in frustration.

Then this weekend Patrick and I were visiting his daughter Kate at school in Cleveland, and she told me two simple things about how to get a Sudoku started: what to look for, how to proceed.  I felt as though someone had turned on a light  in my brain. Having a place to start opened it up, and then I could see other, more complex ways to think and progress. I'm proud to say that I've since completed four Sudokus.

Images Today I was working with a client group, teaching them Social Styles.  And there were various times when I saw an interpersonal version of the same thing happen for someone in the group. First, not getting each other: frustration, blockage.  Then that sudden "ah-ha": the light goes on, and another person's point of view or approach that had seemed completely un-understandable suddenly makes sense.  It's still maybe not the way you would do it, but it makes sense.  You can work with it.

And here's MY ah-ha.  I wouldn't have been able to benefit from Kate's Sudoku wisdom if I had assumed that Sudoku was completely beyond me.  But I didn't.  My assumption was that I just hadn't figured out how to get into it yet (Which turned out to be the case).

I think people often assume that there's simply no way to understand and work with someone who's wired really differently from them.  So they can't.  But if they assume, instead, that they just haven't yet figured out how to make it work  — then when a tool or model is offered that might provide important insights into that person, they can be open to it.

So, the moral of the story is: stay hopeful.  If you assume there just might be a way to solve a semingly insoluble problem, you'll be open to considering the solution when it shows up.

Posted in learning

About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

Visit Erika's Forbes.com Blog

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